A police officer has been disciplined after an investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office concluded that she had failed to make adequate enquiries to identify a suspected drunk driver who drove off after a collision.
The investigation found that despite being told by bar staff that the suspect had been drinking and that he had recently been released from prison, the officer failed to ask for his name to assist follow up enquiries.
The collision happened in Co. Antrim in June 2014 when the man drove into the rear of a woman’s car. The woman said that the man appeared drunk, and when she told him she was calling the police, he jumped back in his car and drove off through a red light.
The woman and her brother later went to a nearby bar and viewed CCTV footage from which she was able to identify the suspected drink driver. She said the barman told them the man’s name, said he was just out of prison and confirmed that he had been drinking.
The woman said this information was passed on to the investigating police officer, but complained that the officer failed to seize the CCTV footage and did not respond to a series of phone calls.
When interviewed, the officer explained that she had not received messages left for her as her police phone had been left in for repair. Enquiries confirmed this to have been the case.
She added that she had gone to the bar to seize the footage, but was told that an engineer would be required to download the footage to a disc. She left her contact details, but later discovered that by the time the engineer called at the bar, the footage had been recorded over.
The officer said she had made other enquiries to identify the suspect, including circulating a possible car registration number to police patrols, but had found no useful information. It was later established that the female driver had failed to note the correct registration number of the other vehicle.
The officer accepted that she should have asked the barman for the name of the person in the CCTV footage, but said she believed at the time that she would have been unable to progress the case without the CCTV footage.
The Police Ombudsman investigator concluded that in failing to ask for a name for the suspect, the officer had failed to progress an important line of enquiry. He recommended that the officer be disciplined and the PSNI has since implemented the recommendation.